Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
Today, memorial day, I remember my sons who have passed. I remember relatives too but its my grandmother that dominates my thoughts today. Grandma Mama.
My mother was mentally ill and a prescription drug addict. She was in and out of mental institutions from the time she turned 16. As a result I spent most of my childhood moving from foster care to orphanage to different relatives over and over again. It was only when I married that I spent more than six months in one place. My most memorable happy days were spent with my grandparents. I remember my Grandma, that I always called Mama, telling me stories and teaching me things. I was all ears and eyes and so eager to learn. In my eyes Grandma Mama was the smartest, wisest, thriftiest, and most talented person in the whole world. I wanted to be just like her. I was a little shadow constantly at her side waiting for bits of wisdom from her. I loved our summer walks through the woods picking wild berries to can and learning how to spot the earliest wild greens. I loved our evenings together sitting by a single oil lamp stitching tiny pieces of cloth for quilts or using butcher twine to crochet into pretty lace doilies. I loved her stories of all the relatives I never got to know.
As Grandma Mama grew older, and less able to care for herself, it never entered my mind to think of her as no longer valuable. I enjoyed hearing stories of her life no matter how many times or how often she repeated them. Even when the same story was repeated back to back I kept listening. It was just nice to hear the stories from her own voice because I knew someday the sound would only exist in my own memories. Oh how much I would dearly love to hear that voice once more repeating those stories.
I often heard Grandma Mama say “growing old is hell” but I never truly understood what she meant. I decided she must have been talking about the aches and pains that go with joints less flexible or the slowing down we do with age. The reason Grandma Mama dominates my thoughts today is because suddenly I realized I’ve reached the age she was when I was her shadow. I now have my own shadow called Ladybug. In my mind I believe I can still do lots of things but when it comes to reality my body says to me no way, forget it. In my mind I’m thinking like that strong twenty five year old while my body is asking what the heck just happened. These days I know what it is to have aches and pains when I wake in the morning. Surely that’s what Grandma Mama meant. Right?
Ok, the physical aches, pains, and limitations can be a real b**ch to live with, but hell? No, that’s not it. There is something else to that hell of growing old Grandma Mama always talked about. Its hell to see the baby faced child you loved and held and sacrificed so much for has grown up and you are not perfect in their eyes anymore. Its hell to realize you can no longer protect them from life’s injuries. Its hell to realize you have become a burden. Its hell to know the time with the kids and grand-kids is short and growing shorter with each passing day. Waking up each morning is a blessing to be cherished. No one knows the time of our life’s end. Its hell to know as an old person my only value is in the amount of money I can hand out of or how often I can be a babysitter.
Toward the end of their lives I cared for both my mother and my Grandmother. My mother stayed in a nursing home at her end because of the heavy medications she took but Grandma Mama lived with me at the end. It was hell watching my mother and Grandma Mama not just get older but get old. I thought it a blessing for me to see past Grandma Mama’s frailties because I could remember when she was so perfect in my eyes. My memories of those happier days were enough to get me through the times I let her lean on me. I gladly helped her to use the bathroom and to bath her and fix her favorite foods. Earlier this month it became 35 years since she passed. In March it was one year since my mother passed. The hell of growing old is wondering who will be there for me to lean on when it becomes necessary. The hell is to know that at my age life grows shorter faster.
Old age finds me thinking about wills and final expenses. Its hell when I realize that most of the people I hoped would attend my funeral have already passed on. Its hell to hear about an old friend with heart disease or diabetes and realize I’m no longer shocked by such news because it happens so often. Its hell to loose friends or family but even more hell to realize my time here with them is short too.
Its hell when I walk upon someone who greets me like an old friend, we talk for awhile comparing ailments, then when she walks away I think to myself who the heck was that? Did she really know me or is she asking herself the same question?
Its hell when I give my age but then find myself hesitating to ask myself, wait, is that right or am I older? Its hell knowing my life is flying by much too fast and as we all know life has no brakes. Its hell to realize I have much too much left to do but far less time than I’ll actually need. Its hell realizing I’m not invincible as I once believed but I’m actually mortal and time is always too short.
Its hell when I realized no one celebrates WW2 victory day anymore because there are so few still living who remember its meaning. Its hell when you say catch phrases popular when you were young but realize no one knows what the heck you mean. Its hell when you ask a child for help understanding new technology but all they do is roll their eyes in response. I’m told I should enjoy my golden years but I don’t, I want some of my youth back.
Oh Grandma Mama you were so right, getting old is hell.
Here is a music video I thought you might enjoy listening and watching. Be sure to have some tissues handy. The old man no one loves